IF former Premier Mike Baird’s greyhound racing ban had gone through, the history books would have shown Big Black as the last greyhound to win a race in NSW.
The Donna Campbell-trained greyhound saluted in race 11 at Richmond on Friday night, June 30, leading most of the way from box five in a slick 22.58.
It was a surreal realisation for Campbell, who has eight greyhounds in work at her Belimbla Park property, as she reflected on what could have been.
“I am sure it would have been bittersweet, but I am so glad I am not the last winner,” Campbell told Australian Racing Greyhound.
The passing of July 1 came without acknowledgement by many in greyhound racing circles, almost as if they were trying to forget the past 12 months and the realisation that their way of life could have been over with the stroke of the former premier’s pen.
Campbell says she will never forget that fateful day on July 7 last year – the date which broke the hearts of tens of thousands of battlers.
“I was outside with the dogs and my husband was asleep in bed after working night shift – I came in and I turned the TV on and it came over as breaking news,” she said.
“I woke my husband up and we sat there for hours just watching what they were saying – we couldn’t believe it.
“It felt like my whole life stopped for that short amount of time – I’ll always remember that day.”
Whilst admitting that her investment in the sport is small compared to many, Campbell had purchased a four-acre property to train her greyhounds prior to the ban being announced. Despite her financial outlay in the sport, Campbell says the ban would have had a greater impact on her life in other ways and that she feared for the future of the dogs in the industry.
“In the months that follows I questioned many times what we would do – my husband and I are both in our fifties and greyhounds are our lives,” she said.
“I knew that if NSW went then the rest would go too – so there was never any real consideration given to moving interstate.
“My main concern at the time was who was going to adopt all of the greyhounds – many people would not have been able to afford to keep their dogs without racing – so where were those poor souls going to go?”
Thankfully, common sense prevailed and the ban was repealed by the state parliament and ultimately cost NSW Premier Mike Baird and his deputy Troy Grant their jobs as Premier and Deputy respectively.
Campbell says she always had faith that greyhound racing would survive, but concedes the ramifications from the ban are still crippling the industry.
“Deep down I was confident it wouldn’t happen – I don’t know if that was just wishful thinking,” she said.
“But even now the industry is still on edge after everything that happened – we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future and you can’t let your guard down at the moment.”
Now that the July 1 milestone has passed, Campbell is hopeful that the industry can move forward – but says it will be hard to ignore what could have been happening right now.
“We would have been trying to find homes for our dogs and pulling the kennels down – the 12 months has gone so fast.
“I am just so glad and thankful that common sense prevailed and that we can all continue racing our dogs and doing what we love.
“I am hopeful that as long as we keep doing what’s best for the animals – which most people do – then the industry is going to be ok.”